While the Minnesota Wild has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past four seasons, and General Manager Chuck Fletcher has juggled assets to maximize the on-ice product, he said that juggling act has come at a price.
"I guess you could say the bill has come due, and certainly we'll pay that bill this year," Fletcher said. "We've been very aggressive at trade deadlines, and this year, some of the picks we've traded this year have gone to the 2014, 2015, and 2016 trade deadlines for assets that we've acquired during those deadlines."
The Wild is slated to pick four times in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday in Buffalo (6 p.m. CT; NBCSN). The Wild owns the 15th pick of the first round, and then one pick in the fourth round, and two in the seventh.
"It's quality over quantity; that's our motto this year," Fletcher said. "Our focus has been on trying to improve our team. Most of our efforts have been on trying to make our team better for next year. If we can add a pick during that process, we'll do it, but we're comfortable with what we have."
The Wild's general manager said part of what went into mortgaging 2016 picks was weighing draft class versus draft class.
"We pushed a lot of picks into this year because last year was such a deep draft," Fletcher said.
The Wild selected seven players in the 2015 draft, picking in every round except the third.
And while Fletcher and Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr left their options open for how they'll manage their 2016 draft assets, Fletcher did say there could be somewhat of a change of course.
"I'd like to avoid continually trading future picks to keep kicking the can down the road," he said. "I think I'd rather pay the bill this year. It will make for a long second day in some respects. Hopefully we get a great kid in the first round, and then keep the majority of our picks going forward, and set up the '17 and '18 draft to be successful."
As for what the Wild is targeting with the four picks it owns, Flahr said it's tough to pin down a niche right now.
"Our needs now are a little different than down the road," he said. "But our strength now is a young blue line in the organization.
"When you're picking 15 you're at the mercy of the teams in front of you, so we'll see what's available. We'll take the best player that we can."
Organizationally, the Wild has also said time and time again its strength is its defense. Flahr also said that recently, Minnesota has used high draft picks on forwards, like Joel Eriksson Ek (2015, first round), Jordan Greenway (2015, second round), and Alex Tuch (2014, first round).
"Our needs now are (also) a little different than down the road," he said.